I have written about many a great English food, from the Saveloy to Burger Sauce (it counts), but of course we English are also famous for loving a drink, or two. Here’s my guide to English drinks and my 15 top-tips for what to drink in the old country.
to read about a Saveloy click here.
What are English drinks?
So get this right out of the way, this article is about English drinks, not Scottish drinks (link), nor British ones. You will not see any scotch here, nor any other cultural appropriations – well maybe a few. Largely what I will present is my homage to what I the Street Food Guy grew up with.
As always these are not the 15 best English drinks ranked, but the best in each category.
Best English Soft-Drink
Forget Coke and Fanta – we have Dandelion and Burdock! Made by a monk who basically picked the first two plants he could find, namely Dandelion and Burdock and made a drink from them. Most recipes no longer use said plants, but the drink has had a bit of a renaissance. It is also rumored that Dr Pepper copied their drink froths British classic.
You can read about Dandelion and Burdock in much more detail here.
You cannot talk about English drinks without talking about tea. Tea and talking about the weather are as close to religion as English people get. We drink tea by the tonne, this is the drink of choice for everyone. Quite frankly nothing beats an English cuppa. Tetley’s tea are what most of us grew up with. Tea is had with milk, sugar is optional and if you are not offered one the moment you enter an Englishman’s house, then quite frankly you are not welcome. I still cannot start the day without a cup. At a push Lipton will do.
Best Orange Soda in England
I may be a Fanta lover, but Tango is very much my guilty Mistress. This is made by Britvic, also very English and is just amazing. Formerly not so well known until they did an add campaign that had people slapping people around the head and saying “You’ve been Tangoed”. We also did this at school and got into trouble.
You can read my in-depth look at Tango here.
Best Summertime English drink? Pimms Number 1
It was surely about time that I dropped an alcoholic drink into the mix. Simms Number 1 is hardly known outside the UK, but is our number 1 summertime funtime drink. A gin bars liqueur mixed with herbs and spices, you then add i.e., cucumber and lemonade (what we call Sprite) and drink it outdoors. A favorite at Wimbledon no less!
English Drinks – Scrumpy Jack Cider
Cider might have suddenly become hipster and cool, but before Magners decided to “add ice”, Cider was being made bitter down in the west country in places like Devon and Cornwall. Our most famous brew is Scrimpy Jack, which is very easy to get drunk on. And if you cannot afford that there is always White Lightning, ah to be 15 again.
English Sparkling Wine
I was very skeptical about this, but as temperatures have soared so has the quality of English wine. We now make some quality white and sparkling wine. Yes it is not Veuve, but it sure beats a nasty Asti-Spumante!
We English drink Gin!
You cannot talk about English drinks without talking about Gin, Bombay Sapphire, London Dry Gin, and a whole heap of startup hipster ones that cost a ton. Gin is quintessentially English and while it does go into many a cocktail , the only way to have Gin is with Tonic.One of the best thing about being in England is it getting to 5pm and it being time for Gin and Tonic, with a lemon, never a lime. Although fun fact, that is why we are called Limeys……
Best English drinks – Lemonade
There is a difference btween what Americans call Lemonade and what we call Lemonade. In England a Lemonade is a lemon/lime soda, such as Sprite, or 7up. Both of these now dominate the market, but the true English lemonade soda is and always will be Schweppes Lemonade. Not as readily available as it once was, but still holding court in many English pubs.
English drinks – Lager!
In reality Fosters is the national lager of the UK. Apparently, or rather in fact they don;t drink it in Australia, but we English have taken the drink very much to our hearts. By the can, the bottle, or ideally by draft we love it almost as much as Neighbors, our second favourite Australian import. Carling Black Label would be the “best” English lager if you had to push me.
Do the English drink warm beer?
That the English drink warm beer is a myth, but we do like ales and IPA’s which are traditionally drank warm temperature. I was never into my ales, but Greene King do a good one. There is though now a great craft-beer/micro-pub scene in England which is great as it cuts out te evil breweries.
To read about Strood Micro-Pub click here (link)
English/Scottish Drinks Buckfast
I feel bad including this on both English and Scottish lists, but this is made in England and was formerly done so by monks. It is caffeinated red-wine and it tastes awful, but homeless people and underage drinkers love it, so I have included it.
Flavored fortified wine
Well I went there with buckfast, so I might as well relive my youth Famously England did not amen great wine, at lest until recently. Before we made bad wine, wine that was so bad we had to flavor it. MD20/20, or MadDog 20/20 was like 20% proof and really cheap, it came in flavours such as Kiwi, or Strawberry. This is before stuff like Smirnoff Ice had been born, honestly kids today do not know how lucky they are! You knew what you had drank the night before by the color of your puke. This is what being teenager in the 90’s tasted like.
English drinks – Cola
OK, so I might have gone a little bit off track now, but I still do reminisce aboutt stole brand cola, such as Safeway Cola. It was really just so bad and would always get served at poor kids birthday parties. Cola is just something we are not very good at, as Richard Branson provide with Virgin Cola. Sitll we like being the plucky underdogs in the UK, so cola gets a mention.
And the best English drink ever? Squash
Every now and again there si a product so pervasive in a society that you assume it simply exists everywhere. Sqauahs is that product. We grow up drinking it literally all off the time. Squash can be any fruit, but is traditionally orange and a cordial. This means that you mix it with water, with the more water you use making it weaker, or less sweet. These taste nothing like “fruit juices” and are just very very unique, essentially after tea and lager is our next drinking obsession.
Other countries have similar products, but they really are not the same and you will be lucky if you find it in a supermarket abroad, usually you will need to visit some kind of speciality store.
English drinks bonus round – Temperance Bars
OK , so it is like a bar, but they don’t serve booze, they serve things like Ginger Beer and Vimto and
And these are the great English drinks of my youth and my present, English drinks I miss, try to find abroad, or seek when I go home. We might not be famous for our cuisine, but the English drinks scene is very vibrant!